Tuesday Teaser 6

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by Miz B of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along. Just do the following:

  • Grab your current read.
  • Open to a random page.
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page.
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (Make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title and author too, so other TT participants can add the book to their TBR lists if they like your teasers.

My teasers:

Cover of "The Midnight Disease: The Drive...
Cover via Amazon

“As Eyler Coates puts it, ‘We’ve always heard that a million monkeys banging on a million typewriters will eventually produce a masterpiece. Now, thanks to the Internet, we know this is not true.'”

***

“It turns out that problems such as procrastination are usually better treated by putting the writer in the appropriate limbic or motivational state than by cognitive strategies such as making To Do lists. Most procrastinators are very aware of exactly what they are not doing.” ~ Alice W. Flaherty, The Midnight Disease: The Drive to Write, Writer’s Block, and the Creative Brain


Pact and Peoria

There was a young girl from Peoria
Whose name was Regina Victoria.
Said she with a sigh,
“It is certain that I
Should reside at the Waldorf-Astoria.”

I’ve made a pact: I will write for at least forty-five minutes each morning before going on-line to check e-mail.

When I start with e-mail, a message leads to a blog to a website to a who-knows-where, and before I know it, I’m surfing.

Surfing and writing aren’t the same thing.

Surfing involves the muscles of one index finger.

Writing involves the muscles of the brain.

Surfing results in a little burst of dopamine at every click.

Writing drains the dopamine right out of you.

I’ve never heard of anyone having surfer’s block or surfer’s anxiety.

You see where this is going.

Pacts normally involve at least two people. Mine, however, involves only me. Consequently, after two days, it’s already getting loose at the seams.

This morning, for instance, before I could open the file wherein lives my budding novel, I remembered McGill Rhyming Dictionary. I downloaded the program–free!–several weeks ago but never installed it.

Why I thought of it today, I have no idea. Just lucky, I guess.

Anyway, I found where it was hidden and installed it. Then I decided to take a peek and see what it looked like.

It looked pretty good, so I decided to see how it works. I clicked all the little icons and admired all the little bells and whistles–it has a hyperbolic thesaurus, plus Wikipedia, plus Wikisomethingelse, plus both proper and common nouns, plus context, plus rime schemes, plus syllable count, plus line numbers…

So I decided to try it out.

At the end of forty-five minutes, I had written three limericks. One of them is at the top of this page.

I’m not going to share the other two. They are perfectly nice, respectable verses. But I do have a reputation to uphold.

I e-mailed them to some friends as evidence of my industry. One suggested a new project: Kathy’s Limerick Blog.

I hate to say it, but I’m tempted. Some people write a haiku a day. I could write a limerick a day.

Two more lines than a haiku. More syllables. The added pressure of rime. But the extra work would be balanced by the fact that when writing a limerick, I know when I’m finished.

Haiku are different. Airy, elusive. I can have the arithmetic exactly right but still feel that something needs fixing.

That’s not a good feeling.

I don’t know yet about the new blog. It would be smart to forget it.

Because limericks are as addictive as e-mail.

I’d just end up needing a new pact.


Review (again): A Broom of One’s Own

I wrote the following post two years ago to answer a “challenge.” I intended to post it at the end of September 2009. I got all tangled up in words and couldn’t write a thing. I intended to post it at the end of October. I still couldn’t write it. I think I managed to write it after the October deadline.

In the middle of the “process,” I considered posting the following review: “I like Nancy Peacock’s A Broom of One’s Own very very very very very much.”

But the challenge specified a four-sentence review, and I had hardly one, and I didn’t want to repeat it three times.

So there’s the background.

I must also add this disclaimer: I bought my copy of A Broom of One’s Own myself, with my own money. No one told, asked, or paid me to write this review. No one told, asked, or paid me to say I like the book. No one told, asked, or paid me to like it. No one offered me tickets to Rio or a week’s lodging in Venice, more’s the pity. I decided to read the book, to like it, and to write this review all by myself, at the invitation of Story Circle Book Review Challenge. Nobody paid them either. Amen.

*********************************************

I like Nancy Peacock’s A Broom of One’s Own: Words About Writing, Housecleaning & Life so much that it’s taken me over two months and two missed deadlines to untangle my thoughts and write this four-sentence review, an irony Peacock, author of two critically acclaimed novels, would no doubt address were I in one of her writing classes.

She would probably tell me that there is no perfect writing life; that her job as a part-time house cleaner, begun when full-time writing wouldn’t pay the bills, afforded time, solitude, and the “foundation of regular work” she needed;  that engaging in physical labor allowed her unconscious mind to “kick into gear,” so she became not the writer but the “receiver” of her stories.

She’d probably say that writing is hard; that sitting at a desk doesn’t automatically bring brilliance; that writers have to work with what they have; that “if I don’t have the pages I hate I will never have the pages I love”; that there are a million “saner” things to do and a “million good reasons to quit” and that the only good reason to continue is, “This is what I want.”

So, having composed at least two dozen subordinated, coordinated, appositived, participial-phrase-stuffed first sentences and discarded them before completion; having practically memorized the text searching for the perfect quotation to end with; and having once again stayed awake into the night, racing another deadline well past the due date, I am completing this review—because I value Nancy Peacock’s advice; and because I love A Broom of One’s Own; and because I consider it the equal of Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird; and because I want other readers to know about it; and because this is what I want.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Letting the miracle happen

I ended an earlier post with the sentence, “There’s a hole I have to write myself out of.”

Parse that and you’ll find it equal parts wish, bravado, pretense, and humbug.

I had no idea how to write myself out of that hole. I thought I’d have to scrap “A Day in the Life of a Rancher’s Wife” and replace it with “A Day in the Life of a One-Room Schoolteacher.” Or anything else I could both start and finish.

But I gave it a shot, opened the document, and began revising. For the Rancher’s Wife, that meant squeezing 700 words into under 500, just in case I came up with a conclusion.

And in the middle of all that deleting, adding, shuffling, it happened. I knew how to end the story.

By the time the epiphany occurred, it was after midnight. I tacked on a couple of sentences to hold the thought and the  next day continued reworking the piece. The result is a story I’m satisfied with. Almost. There’s still time for tweaking.

When I was teaching English in the late ’70s, the latest fashion was to teach the writing process: brainstorming, prewriting, writing, revising, editing, polishing, proofreading. Sometimes prewriting was put before brainstorming. Sometimes editing and polishing were rolled into one. It was neat and tidy and linear.

But there was no step to describe that epiphany.

If there’s frustration here–and there is–it’s that I can’t explain that missing step. I had given up. I wasn’t trying think of a solution. I was playing with words. And then I knew.

Maybe that’s the heart of the process: relax, play, stay in the now, allow ideas to come. Maybe the process isn’t a process at all.

I’ve read that creativity has something to do with the frontal cortex, the anterior cingulate, the temporal lobe, the limbic brain, alpha brain rhythms, gamma brain rhythms, warm showers, long walks, and happiness. When scientists have it all observed and assimilated and indexed, I’ll try to understand.

For the present, however, I like to think that extra step is Gertrude Stein’s miracle.

Not knowing. Knowing.

And the process is letting the miracle happen.

The daily miracle

The most serious problem the writer encounters is coming up with a topic, coming up with an original topic, finding the form you’re comfortable with, writer’s block, creating interesting characters, writing sparkling dialogue, finding your voice, weeding out unnecessary modifiers, weeding out passive voice, appealing to the five senses, revising, finding a good critique group, accepting criticism, polishing the manuscript, f inding an agent, selling the manuscript, hanging in there… forgetting how the process works, forgetting the process works, forgetting the process forgetting the daily miracle will come.